A Railman’s Holiday

Taking a trip or holiday to do what you normally do at work is often referred to as a busman’s holiday’. But quite by chance I recently came across what was very much a railman’s holiday, or at least, a day out.

We (my wife and I) had been away on grandparent duty – and very enjoyable it was too. Our route home took us through Chinnor in Buckinghamshire and I knew there was a heritage railway based there. But when you pass by on a rather dull Wednesday in March you don’t expect the line to be active. Rather, I expected pleasant surroundings whilst we studied maps to actually plan our route.

I was surprised at the number of cars in the car park and there was, indeed, a train at the platform. Well, I had to have a look, didn’t I? I discovered that the volunteers of the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway were welcoming their colleagues from Network Rail. That’s the national company that owns all the main line rail network.

There was a scene utterly redolent of the 1960s. Now of course, I’d have preferred a steam train but for a generation or more this was what a local railway station might have been like.


The jarring blots on the scene, as a recreation of the past, are the hi-vis jackets of the network rail men.

The ‘train’ is a single car diesel built by Pressed Steel in 1960. It is on home territory for this line was a part of the Western Region on which this carriage saw service.

The backwards 5 sign is actually a speed limit sign. Trains that pass that point must go no more than five miles per hour.

This really does capture a time which has past and the Network Rail boys were enjoying access to all of the facilities.


Chinnor Signal Box looks to be well filled with the orange jacketed fraternity. The box carries an authentic looking GWR name board, but actually is a double rescue from a Cheshire Lines location via a private garden. It dates from at latest the 1890s and experts ponder on it being older than that.

Most of the Network Rail chaps had done what many a person does on a day out. They’d made for the café.


The café is an old coach body. It is an attractive coach and our Network Rail men appear to be enjoying a cuppa inside whilst others chat on the platform.

That metal ramp thing in the foreground, between the tracks, looks like an old Great Western Railway ‘AWS’. Even on the old steam trains, it was a system which gave drivers an audio signal as well as the more normal visual one. It meant speeds could be maintained in fog and train brakes were applied automatically if drivers ignored the warning they got.

And now I shall have a little gripe about the railway’s web site. Most of it, at http://www.chinnorrailway.co.uk/ is admirable, but the stock list, I should say, has been written by real nerds for real nerds. I wanted to find out more about that lovely café coach and maybe it is the Cambrian Railway vehicle of 1895. This is described as ‘iu’. Scrolling down reveals that this means internal use. But does this mean it’s the tea shop? The same stock list describes the diesel car that I saw as a BR DMBS single car and goes on to tell us that its wheels are 2-2w-2w-2 DMR. Now that is just incomprehensible jargon. What I’d like to have known is: when it was built and by whom – and it gives us this; where it was used and on what kind of service; when it was withdrawn from service and what happened to it subsequently. By all means tell us it was a second class carriage, with a diesel motor, had a guards van and a driving cab at each end (which is roughly what that DMBS means. If you feel the need you can tell us it had mechanical transmission using cardan shafts and a four speed epicyclic gearbox but tuck that away for the nerds to find.

But it’s a minor gripe for what looks to be a pretty little line.

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2 Responses to “A Railman’s Holiday”

  1. Pete Says:

    Isn’t that a ‘bubble car’ (the one with the exhaust pipes at the front)? I saw one of them still in service on the Aylesbury-Princes Risborough branch just a few years ago…

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